'My eyes snapped open, an eerie silence swept through the huts of Kibo as the full moon's luminescence caused silhouettes outside our window. The midnight hour was near and with it came a day that most of us will remember as the most challenging and gruelling we would ever endure. After a quick hot beverage, we were made to stand in single file and began our first steps towards completing this behemoth task. Exposure to high altitude is a phenomenon which is difficult to describe to a person who hasn't experienced it. Like a python which gradually but persistently constricts the life out of its prey, we succumbed to the lack of oxygen at over 5000m above sea level. Every step became laboured at this elevation. The approach up the mountain is so steep that it’s almost impossible to walk straight up and as a result we were directed through a plethora of switchbacks by our team of amazing guides. It’s a laborious process which requires doggedness and an unyielding determination.
Now fully exposed to the elements, the extreme altitude and temperatures which had dropped to minus 15 degrees Celsius, we each felt the fatigue and wear of the mountain on our bodies. It was agreed that we would work as a team in the hope that everyone reached the summit safely, but this meant we had to go slowly. There were moments of dismay, but all you had to do for renewed inspiration was look up or down at the trekkers from around the globe, their headlamps making them look like clusters of fireflies, gradually ascending to a common destination. The blistering wind scorched any exposed skin it could find and after a few hours our water and snacks froze solid and with them, the grimaces on our faces too. This is when one needs to be mentally stronger rather than physically fitter and have the ability to overcome the voice which goads you to give into the fatigue. This is what it takes to conquer the mountain and it was also what we were all running out of. The original plan was to reach Gilman’s point, the first summit point, by sunrise. However, we still had a few hours to go by the time the first rays of sunlight peaked over the endless sea of shadowy clouds.
After more than six hours of icy pain, the sun was a welcome spectacle. And what a glorious spectacle it was! Like a molten orb forged by ancient gleaming gold, the sun energized and revitalised our forlorn spirits, engulfing us in its warmth and treating us to the most amazing sunrise of our lives. With Gilman’s point in sight, it wasn't long before we reached the steepest and possibly most challenging point of our journey, the final ascent. The unforgiving volcanic shale presented a tricky impediment along this stretch towards the achievement of a lifetime. Victory was almost palpable, within our grasp yet still elusive. Driven by thoughts of those wonderful smiles which we witnessed just a few days ago, those of the children of Sub Saharan Africa, the reason we undertook this journey, we were spurred on to complete this terrific task and reach heights not many have attained.
The sense of accomplishment which overtakes you has no parallel, a fresh surge of vigour now coursing through each and every one of our veins at this moment of victory we are all awe stuck by the grandeur which only a few have ever witnessed. But for some still fervent to feed the human compulsion for adventure, this wasn’t enough. Uhuru peak still taunted our frazzled bodies from across the immense crater. This final 2 hour drag towards the highest point in Africa separates the boys from the men. Even with the vast vivid views of the entire Kilimanjaro to our left and the prehistoric mesmerizing Glaciers to our right, the final seemingly easy trek around the brim of the crater just doesn’t end! This is where one’s self-doubt creeps in and one questions the madness behind undertaking such a ludicrous task. After passing Stella point, the halfway mark to Uhuru we were required to dig up every last iota of grit our bodies could muster to climb the final ascent.
Our lives are defined by our actions, moments which become memories the second they pass. There are very few of these moments which truly imprint into the deepest reassesses of our minds and which then indefinitely influence our thoughts and actions. I can undoubtedly say that the feeling of overwhelming accomplishment and satisfaction achieved simply by standing at the highest point of Africa will forever live on as a milestone in my life, and a moment which will never be forgotten!'